Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Playing Mad Max On N. Highland

Creative Loafing's Gwynedd Stuart gets many things right in her article about daily conflict between drivers and pedestrians in Virginia Highland.

Atlanta is not a pedestrian friendly city. Sidewalks are sparse and multi-lane thoroughfares, even in the city core are numerous. Also, even on the never ending autobahns we call interstates, we text, apply makeup, read and stuff our faces with pounds of fast food flesh.

In a pedestrian dense neighborhood like Virginia Highland, it is down right frightening.


There are also some special factors about Virginia Highland which should be considered.

Between Ponce and Los Angeles, there are no fewer than 10 pedestrian crossings with a significant number placed mid-block. It would be interesting to research the genesis of this high frequency. I imagine it has something to do with it being an "entertainment district".

The result of this overcompensation is drivers start, stop, repeat process for the full 1.5 miles. It can be frustrating for the most patient driver.

But this is a mild annoyance compared to the far more dangerous game of Frogger played by the pedestrians.

I will not go so far to claim the previous point is causation for this one, but despite being blessed with abundance of crossings, Virginia Highland pedestrians have a peculiar laissez faire attitude about where to cross the street.

 It doesn't matter the conditions; light, dark, sunshine, raining., hail of frogs, it is inevitable that a drive down Highland will result in a sudden stop due to a pedestrian darting between cars to dash across the street.

Sunday, returning from my farm in south Georgia, I witnessed near tragedy. A car was inching its way out of Yeah Burger, attempting to turn left onto southbound Highland. Of course, the driver was looking to his right to avoid being boned like a T. At the same time, a gentlemen who was drunk/texting/generally oblivious began walking at a diagonal from the Taco Mac towards the other side of the street.

The car saw an all clear and gunned it. I do not exaggerate in saying that a life was spared by two humans suddenly becoming aware of a vast world outside their tiny existence, a quick swerve of the car and hilarious pirouette by the walker.

It is law that cars stop for pedestrians and any suggestion otherwise should be castigated. However, it is also law that pedestrians use the crosswalks and in this particular neighborhood it's almost impossible to avoid them.

But most important of all, if you are a couple hundred pounds of soft flesh, can we expect a smidgen of common sense instead of proudly strutting arrogance when you cross paths with 2000 pounds of twisted steel? As Gwynedd also notes, the law won't matter one smidge if you a smudge on the pavement.


Pauly D. said...

James, I agree completely that with the abundance of crosswalks (not necessarily well-placed, but quite necessary) in Virginia Highland, there is no excuse for the pedestrian behavior of crossing OUTSIDE the crosswalks. Pedestrians that do this less than 30 feet from a crosswalk piss me off to no end.

The only argument to me that matters here is within a crosswalk, the pedestrian should be afforded every protection. If struck, the driver should lose his or her license for years, pay every dime of any associated medical costs and a sizeable amount directly to the victim just because.

I can't tell just how much we disagree on my next point, but I would wager that the rate at which drivers ignore the law that requires them to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks (an alarming number of whom are texting, or eating, or putting on makeup) exceeds the number of pedestrians who foolishly choose to ignore the crosswalks entirely.

That said, I will not vociferously defend a dumbass pedestrian who crosses outside of the crosswalks and winds up mangled.

I think we agree on most of these points, but if you should require empirical evidence, I'm sure we could generate our own from the comfy confines of Moe's & Joe's, Fontaines or even Taco Mac.

griftdrift said...

In the crosswalk, yes.

Here's the problem and in all my travels in the metro area it is endemic in the Va Highland area.

People on sidewalks, with their dogs, lattes, massive baby strollers, whatever tend to loll about near the crosswalks.

Then, we get into a game of "intentions".

If I see someone who clearly is about to enter the crosswalk and give them the opportunity to cross.

If they seem to distracted by their conversation, staring at the sky or whatever, then no.

And the problem with a guessing game of intentions where the contestant is guessing the intentions of a car or guessing the intentions of someone standing on the sidewalk, the car is going to always win.

That's why, as a frequent pedestrian, I err on the side of caution instead of testing the intentions of Atlanta's crazed drivers.

Is it fair? No. But that's life. And I ain't going to risk it just be right.

griftdrift said...

Oh. And I'll take your bet. We can even cover both of our areas. Let's take one Saturday at Moes and Joes. You can sit with me on the patio and count how many people dart between the cars.

Then the next saturday, we'll mosey up to Diesel and watch the number of people who don't stop at the crosswalk near the CVS

Anonymous said...

I've been developing a game called VaHi Bingo!

mark off a square off your card when you first site the following:
someone walking a dog
someone pushing a stroller
someone with a tattoo
someone eating a King of Pops pop
someone on a bike
someone running
someone driving by on a scooter
a firetruck
a privatized parking official


Sara said...

Yes, pedestrians are often idiots who fail to use crosswalks and don't look where they're going before darting into busy streets. I doubt anyone would dispute that or argue these people bear no responsibility if they are hit by a car when doing so. But, there is a reason traffic laws are set up to impose a greater obligation (and greater penalty) upon drivers than pedestrians for violating the rules of crosswalks. The hieghtened obligation is on the person inside of and operating the large potentially deadly machine, rather than the unprotected pedestrian. As it should be.

griftdrift said...

Really? How does that jibe with the Cobb County mom charged with the death of her child for not using a crosswalk?

The greater obligation may lay on the driver of the car but the difference is not that vast. And my point is that there's an air of entitlement to Va Hi pedestrians.

Want to talk about Piedmont or Juniper or Memorial as the readers at Creative Loafing are doing? Different story. But Va Hi? Give me a break.

Pokerista said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara said...

That prosecution made no sense, particularly since the guy who hit and killed the child left the scene (likely drunk), and was not similarly charged. It's why she was granted a new trial. (It also wouldn't have occurred outside of the specific context of a mother directing her young children to cross the street outside of a crosswalk--mothers have a legal duty to protect their children. If instead it had been a bunch of adults walking and one was hit and killed, nobody would be prosecuted except for the driver of the car.)

Is it really that hard to go slow and stop at every crosswalk on N. Highland? I do it all the time, having lived in that neighborhood for over 5 years. And when I'm a pedestrian, I appreciate the people who do it for being careful and considerate. I don't think it's that much to ask.

And I can say that even though I got rearended on N. Highland Ave. a few years ago precisely because I stopped when someone suddenly walked into the street, the car in front of me (and I immediately after him) slammed on the brakes, and the guy behind me wasn't paying attention and hit me. It was our obligation to watch for that in an area where we know it occurs, even as it was the pedestrian's obligation not to act like a dumbass and walk into traffic. These are not mutually exclusive things.

(Reposting from the right account this time. Dur.)

griftdrift said...

Yeah. Actually it is a relatively significant pain in the ass. I lowballed my number.

I went back, used Google maps and counted the crosswalks. There are 19 crosswalks between Ponce and Amsterdam.

Now factor in joggers who use the street even thought there are aidewalks and factor in the idiots who don't use the sidewalks.

The larger problem here is we are applying Atlanta's woeful pedestrian problems to one of the most pedestrian friendly neighborhoods.

Please. Go apply militant PEDS agendas to places with real problems.

As Gwynedd sort of said. The biggest problem with Va Hi is assholes. Both driving and walking b

Joeventures said...

The captcha for this comment I'm leaving is "uppatent." That may not be a real word. But if it were, it would probably describe this post quite well enough.